Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

rush to your newstands...

Hiddy ho rust belters. The most current New American Paintings Midwest edition has some seriously good painting happening within those 100 or so satin coated soy printed pages. And what’s more of a surprise is the number of Cleveland artists all tucked up and nestled in sharing the spotlight with the larger and louder 2nd city to our 3rd, Chicago. We have a lot of competition here in the midwest. We could get royal rumbled by Kansas City, Minneapolis, Chicago but Cleveland took it to the mat. High-fives to Lorri Ott,  Natalie Capanneli, Andy Curlowe, Michelle Muldrow. It all just makes me so proud. Now if only we could get some galleries to stay open but that’s another story….

clockwise from top: Lorri Ott, Michelle Muldrow, Natalie Capanneli


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I saved Wes Johansen for a little break out post from my Friday night recap because I liked it, quite a bit. I formulated this opinion I think on my own although I am also leaning toward the idea that the wall of TV’s actually hypnotized me into compliance. What I liked about it was that if you focused on the block of televisions as a whole and experienced the motion of the scenes and the movement within each individual set the sculpture came alive to me. I don’t know why but it was like a weird android with choppy movements.

Wait a second, a little description might be nice. In the back room of SPACES Wes Johansen set up a generic yet familiar living room. Like Frank Lloyd Wright once described the hearth as the center and focal point of home, here the TV’s are the warm glowing epicenter. Now instead of family folklore, marketing approved tales are what is passed down as a collective soul. You can have a seat on the well-worn couch in front of the wall of 10 maybe various sized tele’s. Look around in the dimly lite space and see the odd nostalgic wall paper dotted with a handful of framed pictures of your favorite sitcom cast members. Wes has decided to take out the family pictures and instead made Kramer our collective weird uncle.

What I was wondering though is why the choices for some of the programs? At first I was like huh, cruddy old vintage television is like an ironic tee. Or better yet like your momma’s jokes….played out. But then I chewed on it a bit more and thought well, we all grew up on this and for Wes these shows perhaps have meanings. Then I started thinking about archetypes and maybe social learning and roles through these shows. How TV formats can be manipulative in so far as they expose impressionables to hunky dudes saving hot babes and masculine ex war heroes fighting crime or how home life should be….I guess that effin’ TV does wield some power. Damn you airwaves and your ability to make me drink Joe Weider shakes for whole year once! >fist pump in the air<

So yeah, WJ, nice work. Plus when I sat down on the couch I looked over to see this lady. She was the icing on the cake, sent me right back to eleventh grade.

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I was asked by the very talented power artist teacher designer writer duo Amy and Misha Kligman to contribute to their thorough artist resource and online review called Art Nicks. Starting about 2 weeks ago I will be adding my wooden nickels worth of writing to that fine resource. I think my focus will be showcasing new art and artists and hopefully illuminate some good things out their. Have any suggestions send ’em over. And enjoy the website there is always good art and opportunities to feast upon. It’s a nice resource.

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Farewell 2009

Heard there was going to be a blue moon this new years, I hope it is clear enough to see such a rare sight and on new years none the less. Most likely I will be in bed by 9…can’t stay up much any more but I’d love to see the moon parade around the sky on the last night of a crazy year and an equally crazy decade as a smurf.

Well as I sit back on the eve of the eve, the green mile of 2009 I reflect on the fact that I had a pretty good year.  I was lucky enough to make some new friends, make some art and even was lucky enough to have shown said art in a handful of great galleries here in Cleveland.  I hope 2010 can build from this and that I make more new friends and more art and see and experience some great shows. Thanks to everyone and may the success’ of 2009 not just be once in a blue moon.

Happy New Year!

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Saturday was an eventful day in Cleveland art and it also was my first class as a newly enrolled student at the Plum Academy. I transferred from being homeschooled in the arts, generally practicing artistic visual and verbal witchcraft in my garage, to a film watching dialogue engaging cultural participant. It was the PA’s goal of course to transform passive observers into active participants at ole Plum U.  And tonight I was transformed.

I, after battling for a parking spot on the Superior Viaduct against hundreds of Bridge Project goers, made it to class on time and filed into my chair to hear Deborah Stratman an acclaimed multi-discipline artist who also teaches at the School of Art & Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discuss and screen 2 recent film projects. The first being an interesting abstract mix of black and white grainy shadowy ameoba and nihilistic quotes about how boring life is that took your mind to dark corners of wonder and contemplation of the meaning of life and whether there is more to it all. I was left with the thought “If that’s all there is….then lets keep dancing…” It was short and fast paced like those kind of thoughts that dash in and out of the mind. Like do we go somewhere after we die or is this really it? Are there ghosts? The dark is scary either physically or metaphorically, darkness is unknown.

Picture 1The second film titled O’er the Land is a methodical and perfectly curated collection of scenes that brought together the zeitgeist of America and the concept of Freedom in a poignant and awesome way.  A film that brought together the civil war, high school football, military training, machine gun festivals all marked with pensive quiet moments of nature, the awe of the quiet and sublime. Nature out does man every time in power and glory. Yet that wasn’t the punch line, there was no punchline rather a reflective rhetorical presentation that opened more questions that it does answer. The film was ironic and humourous in its sheer truth and obscurity, like the civil war reenactments that at first seem like it meant to be about the civil war itself but then when it cut to golf carts and an ambulance with civil war players standing idle off the battlefield the scene is clearly about the reenactment. The ambulance there to help just in case some one gets hurt while “playing war”.

The movie, slow at times and pensive with Ansel Adams or Joel Sternfeld like framing. The production was as much about photography and referenced  past greats artists who have equally tried to define it. Fox Talbot, Adams, Sternfeld all marked manifest destiny in their own way at their time. Stratman dips into that historic bag in her approach .Each shot was tripod-ed and chosen like the way a photographer would use a view camera. She then  let the drama play out in the frame like a Harry Potter painting, truly a moving picture. The pictures were enhanced with the sounds and quotes.  They added complexity to the story.

The piece was great, better than any linear narrative because it took you to so many places yet with an underlying cohesiveness. The cathartic nature of the film at times was absurd with the documentation of the machine gun festival in Knob Creek Kentucky showing a sign that exclaimed, Machine Gun Rentals here. But ultimately was enlightening without judgement.  The players in the film were real and honest.

What I took away most from the film was not my admitted disgust with weaponry because that was an internal judgment when seeing the footage of gun-toting and not the aim of the film, was the story of Lt Col William Rankin. It was what I thought to be the underpinning and vehicle for the film. His story, about ejecting from a plane at 47,000 feet and his ensuing 45 minute drop back down to earth and survival through extreme temperatures and a raging storm, was to me, the point.  It was the question of being. Of as Rankin explains, surviving because of training. It was a great juxtaposition of the awe of nature and of our minds and bodies and spirits. It was a culmination of age old questions about existence. The scene was moving and riveting.

O’er the Land really  was the finest in what art can do. It gives you feelings and challenges views and is poetic with a message, it presents everything and nothing at the same time.  It has a clear agenda but the funny thing is your left with only a feeling and your mind reeling with its own questions and thoughts. If you get a chance to see it, do it. It’s on par with Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi in its poetic probing of american culture and psyche.

It has made a prestigious run through many film festivals including Sundance and Cannes. Here are a few links for some more info and Stratmans other works.




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Friday night was hopping in Tremont. It was such a gorgeous evening walking around the neighborhood from Lava Lounge to Scoops to Asterisk for the opening of the curated 19 show. A show that brought together 19 local artists who have never shown with the gallery before. A mash-up of different aesthetics and aims as diverse as sculpture, graphic neo-pop, post-contemporary painting, video, installation. Good and bad, successful or unsuccessful it was a survey of the exciting and diverse practices happening in the metro area.  Perhaps it was one too many pre-show beers bought for me by some old room-mates I haven’t seen in a while or just the awe struck daze I was in from the beauty of the night but, naughty reviewer I forgot or lost a pen to jot down some notes and since I forget every name ever even my own mother, I have no names to accompany my fav’s list. But, we move on.

astersk19-2Stand outs where the latex tumor-esque or microscopic platelet’s blood cell inspired sculptures in the glass case, lined up like specimens in a medical museum. The tactile nature of the material and the color choices created a feeling with out even having to hold them.  I imagine the glass case was to thwart an art looker with less than first grade restraint? I know I wanted to squeeze one and hold it.  They had a feeling of the body and of corporeality. Interesting inspiration. I also suppose they leaned on the side of orifice but I am sticking toward cellular.

Also the painting that just exploded with stuff shackled to and glued and wedged together on the surface of the support was awesome.  There was so much energy, like neo-expressionism meets sculpture meets consumer culture meets chaos in modern life.  It was junkie and exciting and resonated with color, texture, clutter: contemporary life.  I love the fact that the existential  brush strokes of Pollack and such that symbolized the inner being is now replaced with the energy of stuff. I could of looked at that piece all night.asterisk19-1

Generally I am luke warm on video because I think it is really really really hard to pull off. But the piece in the basement with the wheat fields and the county line map super imposed on the arid cracked landscape that segwayed into a race down 71  I found captivating. I stood in a trance watching. The pace was good and the imagery and raw sound transported you away and made the viewer sort of go quiet inside. Or maybe it was the smell of basement that sent me into a hypnotic peyote trance. I’m still going with the video though.


All in all, throw in 3 great Dana Oldfather explosions of color and line and…was that a skull? with that cool Nightmare on Elm Street transformation of the fist or bosom or rubbery protrusion seamlessly extending from the white wall as if in a moment it will pop and deflate and the 19 show seems to instill the notion of great art happening in Cleveland.

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My father worked for National City Bank for over 40 years. He retired about a year before the big collapse.  I think about what he must feel or take away from a company that he gave his entire working career too and then see it fold and be pawned off over night.  For the owners and CEO’s of corporation who leverage and “play” with huge companies as if it were a real life game of Risk, the real drama is in the history and meaning places like that have on its workers and the community. I remember family open houses, outings to Geauga Lake and the charity bike-a-thons that we so proudly participated in.  Business’s seemed to actually want to play a roll in the community on a level more personal than just sponsoring a play here or a sporting event there. Community involvement now is relegated to the calculated placement of a logo as to heighten awareness and brand recognition with a key demographic.  Business of course is all about money but the levels in which corporations act with in the community now is as shallow as an episode of Gossip Girl.  They have gone from a loving nurturing teet to a hose that dribbles water into a cold metal bowl. A hose that can just as easily be switched from quench to soak as it’s turned on employees when the stock holders need to see more profits.
With all that in mind I found Leslie Grant and Nina Pessin-Whedbee’s installation at MOCA to be so heartfelt and full of meaning and nuanced depiction of a changing America.  The collection of artifacts, photographs and oral history recollection from employees at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg Brooklyn  has subtle tones of nostalgia evoking memories of past values that are never found any more in contemporary business priorities.  I found the relics in the glass cases to be moving. Picture albums of events at the plants, newsletters that chronicled important happenings both at work and perhaps celebrating milestones of employees. There are notes on ruled paper and drawings perhaps done while describing or remembering things that happened at work and of course my favorite the commemorative pen given to mark years of service. As trite as gesture as it is, it means so much to have an employee be honored in anyway.
Having grown up in a time when companies still played a roll in peoples lives above being the paycheck provider that could be taken away at anytime. A dark overlord that constantly hangs the other shoe over all employees. Loyalty is hard to find now.  I can really connect with the way companies use to impact a community. And I find Grant and Pessin-Whedbee’s art at MOCA to be a great homage and metaphor to the realty of the cross-roads we here in America are at in regards to how we make a living and just how far we’ve strayed from the ethics and obligations of companies and communities.

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